While in Indonesia, Ahmed Orozco and a colleague tried a shot of aceh, a coffee bean that grows in the mountain basin of Lake Tawar and the town of Takengon. He describes it as taking a shot of tequila, a burning sensation lingering in his chest. “It was some of the best coffee I’ve ever had,” Orozco said. That shot of aceh set Orozco on a journey of learning more about coffee-making that eventually led him to open his own shop in El Paso in February.
Orozco is the owner of Kopi Coffee, 205 Cincinnati Ave, in El Paso’s Cincinnati Street entertainment district. The coffee shop is bright and modern, with a combination of tall contemporary tables and stools as well as cozy sofas in conversation areas. Paintings by local artists hang on the walls. Orozco said he plans to alternate artists frequently.
But the main focus of Kopi Coffee is providing a great cup of coffee.
“Coffee is much like steak,” Orozco said. “There are various methods of cooking and preparing your steak. You can grill it, use smokers, put it in the oven. But if you want quality steak, you don’t go to just go with whatever is easiest. You don’t go to a cheap restaurant. It’s the same with coffee. You don’t go to Circle K. With coffee, you need to treat it and grow it well to get a good quality cup of coffee. Essentially, what you’re tasting when you drink a cup of coffee is the soil where it grew.”
Kopi gets its coffee from Klatch Coffee, a coffee roaster and purchaser in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Nzo Tiano, marketing and creative director with Klatch, said the company follows high standards in choosing the coffee growers it buys from.
“Some certifications that we stand by and look for are Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Organic Certifiers and the list can go on. Most of the producers and farmers that we’ve sourced from have complied to those legal obligations,” Tiano said. “Farms like Finca Las Merceds and Jasal from El Salvador are great examples of well-renowned coffee farms that we’ve built a steady relationship with that also complies to all their certifications before introducing any coffees to us.”
Tiano said company buyers conduct several blind-cuppings – tasting a coffee without knowing which one it is – to find the one they consider the best.
“You eventually find specific characteristics in coffee flavor depending on the country or farm you visit,” Tiano said. “For example, El Salvadorian and most Central American Countries present a brighter, citrus and dark chocolate flavor that we’ve come to love and expect. Ethiopian coffees are more sweet berry-like, which have also created a cult following on it’s own.”
To prepare for opening his own coffee shop, Orozco traveled to Klatch’s headquarters last year to study with the company’s owner, Mike Perry. Orozco, a former oil field worker, studied for two weeks under what he said was a “rigorous and hectic schedule” to learn about roasting and brewing methods.
Kopi uses the Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine which can be adjusted for the different flavor profiles of each type of coffee and specialty beverages like lattes or espresso-based drinks.
The cafe also uses the Alpha Dominche Steampunk Brewer, which features glass cylinder taps to deliver a precision brew.Different coffees require different temperature settings, which is what the machine allows the barista to control. Orozco said that when people describe coffee as tasting burnt or bitter it often can be attributed to over-heating the ground coffee.
Customer Alejandro Ramirez, a senior advertising major at the University of Texas at El Paso, said he appreciated the way Kopi Coffee highlights the coffee itself as opposed to pushing artificial flavorings.
“There’s definitely a focus on the profile of the coffee than on the syrup flavors,” Ramirez said.
Orozco collaborates with other local small businesses to make baked goods and other treats available for his customers who stop in to the cafe next to the popular Kern Place neighborhood and UT El Paso.
“I thought that this location would be ideal for a coffee shop. Residents weren’t liking the crowd the bar scene brought in already,” Orozco said. “That’s why the environment here in the Cincinnati District has been changing. It needed more than bars. With UTEP and business nearby, it only made sense to add an authentic coffee shop in the area.”
Orozco is working to make Kopi a comfortable, inviting space for people to visit with friends, work or just unwind. The cafe currently hosts chess matches, barista competitions and other events, such as patio music sessions on Friday nights with local jazz and acoustic musicians.